E3 2011: Twisted Metal
QUICKTAKE: Twisted Metal harkens back to an era of much simpler game design. Fans will eat up the new weapons and vehicles, like the ambulance that shoots patients at opponents. However, those looking for a more sophisticated experience will find Twisted Metal a bit grating.
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THE DEMO: On the show floor, the game is running on an endless loop of Deathmatch games, allowing you to spawn as any unlocked vehicle. I got a chance to rotate through as many as I could, including Sweet Tooth's iconic ride, the motorcycle, the helicopter, and this rolling ball... thing (pictured, above). The 8 player free-for-all took place on a rather small level: a movie theater with power-ups scattered throughout its parking lot. The tight space meant you were always in close proximity to an opponent, keeping the game constantly chaotic.
DETAILS: At first, I was troubled by what I saw. I was waiting for a demo kiosk to open, and the man in front of me kept dying, constantly referring to the control cheat sheet in front of him. Is the game really that hard, I wondered?
The answer is "no." It's true that the controls are not what you'd expect out of a modern racing game or shooter. But the beautiful thing about Twisted Metal is that you can't describe it as any of those things. You'll drive with the Square button, use energy weapons with the D-Pad, cycle through special weapons using R1, fire your machine gun with L2, and use your special attack using R2. It's undoubtedly a lot to keep in mind, but once you do, you'll find it easy to maneuver around the environment, freezing opponents, and blasting them with homing rockets.
Unlike Call of Duty foot soldiers, the vehicles of Twisted Metal can dish out and take a lot of damage. Even a barrage of missiles might not entirely take out a car, meaning I had to revert to a strategy I hadn't employed since the 90s: constantly look for the person with the smallest amount of health to gain the kill. You'll earn points for shooting and ramming cars, but the glory comes by finishing someone off. Deathmatch felt rote after a while: look at the HUD for enemies, lock on to the one with the lowest health, freeze them, fire missiles, run away, get power-ups, and repeat.
Although I played through all the vehicles that were available, I felt as though none really drastically changed the experience. Yes, some cars were faster, and others were better armored. But, the strategy remained the same. The only vehicle that truly shocked me was the helicopter, with its totally different controls, and unique perspective. Its special ability lets you jump into the gunner's seat, manually aiming down fire at the cars below. You're vulnerable during this mode, making it a great example of risk-reward gameplay. I wish what I played at E3 featured even more of this level of inventiveness.
I'm sure nostalgia alone will make this new Twisted Metal a worthy investment for many. However, I still need to see more game modes and deeper gameplay before I'm sold. For now, Twisted Metal feels like a fun, but not particularly impressive, HD version of a PS2 game.
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